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Does Heartbeat Bill still have a heartbeat moving forward?

BY MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: December 28, 2016 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS -- Random questions that come to mind, following the enactment of a 20-week abortion ban and the line-item veto of the Heartbeat Bill amendment, which would have prohibited the procedure about six weeks after conception:

Was this all a setup from the start? It sort of looks that way.

Think about it: The Ohio Senate, which has not supported passage of the Heartbeat Bill for most of three general assemblies, suddenly amends the language into a separate bill at the last minute, complete with an appropriation, which opened the door for Gov. John Kasich to use his line-item veto authority to strike it completely from the final approved law changes.

The Ohio House did approve the ultimate legislation but on a vote that fell just shy of the support needed to override a veto.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) has the justification to refrain from calling the chamber back into session before the end of the year to consider an override, since there aren't enough lawmakers on board as of now to accomplish that task.

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Add to that the passage of the 20-week ban. Did anyone really think the governor was going to sign two abortion bans that carried different prohibitions?

What happens now? There are no indications that the legislature is coming back before the end of the year to override the Heartbeat Bill veto or any other vetoes, for that matter. It's not out side the realm of possibility, though, so I wouldn't rule it out completely.

The bigger question moving forward is whether lawmakers will move the Heartbeat Bill again next session. Backers no doubt will introduce it. There's likely enough Republicans in both chambers who support it for passage.

But leadership has some measure of justification in blocking its consideration -- they'll likely say that the governor will just veto it again, so why bother?

What are the implications of all of this for 2018? Any day now, we'll be in the thick of another election cycle, and the Heartbeat Bills stands to be one of the major issues Republican candidates in particular will have to address.

There are a lot of like-minded voters out there who want to ban abortion outright. They want a new court case that will overturn Roe vs. Wad.e. Many think the Heartbeat Bill is the way to do that. Backers even have legal counsel lined up, willing to take the case without charging the state.

In a potentially crowded GOP primary for governor, the Heartbeat Bill could be the thing that sways the pro-life electorate.

A group of pastors at the Statehouse a few days back, who were urging a veto override, called this past presidential election an awakening. And people of faith, they said, aren't going to stand on the sidelines during coming elections when something like the Heartbeat Bill is at stake.

"People vote their values, and morality matters," said J.C. Church, senior pastor of Victory in Truth Ministries near Bucyrus. "We do not endorse candidates, but what you can do is look at the candidates, those who are running, and say this one stands for life, this one doesn't stand for life Just like the evangelicals came out in record numbers over this presidential election -- really, the Supreme Court and those issues brought them out -- this will too. This will weigh very, very heavy on the minds of the evangelical voters in the next election."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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